Just how old is “too old” to get into finance?
If you want to work in distressed investing, do you need to start at a bank’s Restructuring group first?
What if you’re a serial entrepreneur?
Oh, and what if you were a male escort in a former life?
Today we’re going to take a look at Experienced Transitions and how you might get into finance / investment banking if you’re NOT an undergraduate, MBA student, or recent graduate.
Help Me, M&I, You’re My Only Hope
1. I’m 50 years old, but recently got interested in investment banking. Can I get in?
You can, but not at the Analyst/Associate level – you would need to be in a related field like law or PE and use your senior-level relationships to get in at the senior level. I know of Partner-level lawyers who have done this.
I’m sure someone will try to find a counter-example, so go ahead: I challenge you to find a single example of a 50-year old being hired as an Analyst or Associate.
2. Most of your advice is targeted at recent grads. What would you say if I’m in my mid-30s, have an MBA, and have started several companies before?
I would say, “It’s tough.” Ordinarily I would say, “Go to business school,” but you’ve already done that – so your best bet is to pitch yourself as having a lot of relationships in a particular industry, and get hired at a more senior level.
It’s hard to get into the industry at the mid-level because banks like either 1) Young people who are more “malleable” or 2) Very senior people with a wealth of relationships.
3. I graduated two years ago and decided to move overseas and work for the finance department of a large company. I opened up dozens of new branches and got great experience, but now I want to get back into investment banking – can I do it?
You can, but I would not even bother with bulge brackets unless you have some type of killer connection. Go for boutiques or any firm/group that specializes in the industry you were in.
It’s too early for business school for you, so if you’re really serious I would start networking and see what kind of response you get.
4. I worked in private equity for 3 years out of undergraduate, and then got my MBA. I’m back to my old PE firm now, but I want to move into investment banking. Yes, you read that correctly: I know it’s the opposite of what most people do. What should I do?
If you’re already done with your MBA, you can’t really take advantage of on-campus recruiting so you’ll have to network a lot – which shouldn’t be that hard, considering you work in private equity and must know a lot of bankers.
Their key question will be “WHY?!!!” so you better have a really, really, really, super-good “reason why” or you won’t make it very far.
5. I’m a recently-laid-off attorney who worked on a lot of Restructuring deals – I want to move into Distressed Investing, but do I need to go to a bank first? I want to avoid that if possible.
Not necessarily. The main question will be “Can you count?” so you need to do something to demonstrate that you know basic valuation and modeling – whether that’s independent study, training programs, or taking classes.
At your level, you could also consider contacting headhunters directly because you have some very relevant experience.
6. I originally wanted to do biomedical research in university – but then I decided to do business at the last-minute and have worked at a finance research firm for the past year. How can I convince banks that I know enough about finance to do the job?
See above: independent study, classes, financial modeling training programs. Keep in mind that a big part of any interview is confidence. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re talking about, if you can say it confidently sometimes they won’t notice.
I would also suggest going after healthcare-focused boutiques, healthcare/medical research-focused equity research groups, etc. to take advantage of your background.
7. I have 5 years of experience as a stock broker and did my undergraduate degree in Computer Science – what’s my best option for working at a bulge bracket bank?
Ah, finally an easy one: a top business school.
8. I used to own my own business, and then I went to Tokyo and “worked” at a club where I had to pick up Japanese girls on the street and talk them into visiting my club and buying $5000 bottles of Cognac to drink with me.
I made a lot of money but got tired of being a “male escort,” so I moved back to the US and am finishing up my undergraduate degree now. Am I “interesting” enough to get interviews?
Dude, I would hire you on the spot just for having been a male escort in Tokyo. You sound way cooler than AJ.
You will definitely catch bankers’ attention with that kind of “story” – but keep in mind that you also need to have a good reason for going into finance, and you need to show them that you know something about the industry.
And, of course, if you’re not a top school you will need to make an intense networking effort to have a good shot of getting interviews.
That’s Networking + Etiquette, not Internet Etiquette…
9. Should I attach my resume when I’m cold-emailing boutiques with my “pitch?”
Yes. If you’re cold-emailing to ask explicitly about jobs, don’t beat around the bush: show them why you’re good, and then follow-up until you hear back.
10. What are the rules for following up after you’ve met bankers at information sessions?
This is a broad question but the most important points are:
- Always have a “reason why” – a request, suggestion to meet, a question, etc. Don’t just say, “Hi, how are you?”
- You don’t need to follow-up based on some arbitrary timeline, but try to stay in touch at least once every 2-3 months.
- Don’t be afraid to ask about recruiting/interviews, especially if it’s close to recruiting season – if you’ve made a good impression they will help you.
11. You’ve written before about cold-calling boutique and merchant banks, but where can I find a list of firms by region?
I’m not one to drop blatant hints about upcoming additions and new products, but you should watch this site very closely over the next month.
12. You mentioned before we should contact recruiters at banks directly if we have exploding offers – but what’s the best way to get their contact information?
The best way is to talk to your friends at these banks and get referrals directly from them – failing that, go through your school’s resources, look on the banks’ websites, or even try simple Google searches like “Bank Name” + “recruiter.” This sounds stupid, but it actually works.
Wait, So What Should I Do With My Life Now?
Hey, it happens to all of us: who really knows what they’re doing, right?
13. I finished my summer internship, but I worked at a “sourcing” private equity firm and didn’t like the work that much. Is there any advantage to working at this type of firm?
Personally I would hate cold-calling dozens of places each day, but there are some benefits to the experience:
- You can write “Private Equity” on your resume.
- Helps with networking / moving to other firms later.
- Still better than something completely unrelated to finance.
- Helps with business school admissions.
14. What happens to bankers who get laid off? Is my life over?
No, but you have to move to Buenos Aires. Or if you’re female, sit around your apartment ordering food off Seamless Web and finding a different guy every night.
15. I have an offer at a boutique bank I interned with, but don’t know if I should take it. There’s almost no modeling involved – just qualitative work. Could I still move somewhere better coming from this background?
If that is your best option I would definitely take it. You can still move somewhere else after this type of experience, though you may want to do some independent study to convince them you know enough about valuation and modeling.
16. Is it better to work at a smaller bank and get great deal experience or move to a bulge bracket and be in a less active group?
I hate to say it, but even if your group sucks you will have better luck with recruiting at a bulge bracket bank. Yes, it’s stupid, but that’s just the way it works.
If you go somewhere small you can still end up on the buy-side – but you won’t be at KKR or Blackstone.
Your favorite category.
17. Have you thought about posting photos and stories from your life in Asia here?
Just look at how pissed people got when I said the CFA was a waste of time – now imagine if I wrote about things that were actually controversial, extremely politically incorrect, and completely unrelated to the topic of this site.
18. I noticed that “Harvard” and “Yale” were at opposite ends of your speaking list on the About page – does this have any significance?
Yes, it means you’re reading this site way too much. It’s called “alphabetical order.”
19. Can you write an article about The 4-Hour Workweek and how to apply it to investment banking?
No need for an entire article: “Don’t go into finance” is your answer.